On Friday morning, at the Cannes Film Festival, Dionne Warwick appeared before a room of journalists to announce her new biopic “Dionne.” She proudly revealed that LeToya Luckett (one of the original members of Destiny’s Child) would be playing her, and that Lady Gaga would be portraying the late singer Cilla Black. Warwick went on to describe the character as “her nemesis.” “She stole my songs,” Warwick said of Black. “I was not a very happy camper about that.”
She’s not the only one. A few hours later, Lady Gaga’s publicist issued a statement, saying that the “Born This Way Singer” was not attached to the movie and would not be taking the role. According to a source, Gaga wasn’t even aware of the film.
The (fake) news of Gaga’s attachment to the film made international headlines. When Warwick presented the project, she stood in front a poster with Gaga’s name on it, and later Rogers & Cowan issued a press release that included Gaga in the cast.
So what happened? Before the days of the Internet, smaller film productions would come to Cannes all the time, and pretend that big stars were attached to their film to fan sales. But technology doesn’t allow you to do that anymore. (Rogers & Cowan didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. )
Here’s what else was announced at Friday’s press conference. Danny Glover will portray Warwick’s father, Mansel Warwick. Olympia Dukakis will co-star as German songstress and actress Marlene Dietrich, who mentored Warwick. The film, which begins shooting in October, will span the early days of Warwick’s career from 1962 to 1968, as she belted out would-be classics like “Alfie” and “I Say a Little Prayer.” Warwick added that Mario Van Peebles was in talks to direct, but hadn’t officially signed on yet.
AMBI Pictures and David F. Wooley’s WW Film Company are financing the movie. Producers are Andrea Iervolino, Monika Bacardi, Wooley and Jacker Binder.
Wooley revealed that he’s already spent 10 years getting the story to the big screen. After early scripts stalled, he realized that he needed a book to adapt the movie from, and co-authored “My Life, As I See It: An Autobiography” with Warwick. Then the movie was back on track, with Randall Jahnson (“The Doors”) writing the latest screenplay with Wooley.
In 2013, Warwick made headlines when she declared bankruptcy with $10 million in tax debt. When asked if the project would help with her finances, Warwick declined to comment.
AMBI Distribution is handling global sales.
Note: This story has been updated to reflect that Lady Gaga is not starring in the film.